Montblanc Diversifies into New Frontiers

By Mash Bonigala

How often do you use an ink pen? If you are like most people in the UK, you are using them less and less, preferring digital technology instead. Indeed, we use traditional writing instruments far less often than we used to. No one knows this better than the European luxury pen maker Montblanc.

For more than a century the maker has dominated its market. Named for the tallest peak in the Alps, the company has an international empire and sells its products in seventy nations. The logo design, which has been in use since 1910, is recognized as a sign of quality and luxury all over the globe. However, even the best brand is worthless if customers have little use for your products.

This is the position that inspired Montblanc to begin offering other products. Diverse products, such as leather goods, jewelry, and watches were also offered. Until recently, the maker offered these products as a ‘side range’ that was secondary to the major product: writing utensils. Now, however, the company plans to put all of its energy and branding power behind their watches.

The watches have been very popular since their introduction in 1995. In fact, they are now coming close to exceeding the sales and profits for the company’s signature pens. For this reason, Montblanc is rethinking their brand. Instead of being associated with pens, Montblanc wants for you (and others in the UK market) to connect their brand with high-end watches.

Like the pens, the Montblanc watches are made entirely by hand. The brand sells several thousand every year. The watches have recently come into fashion with major UK celebrities, in part because of the marketing efforts that the company is putting into this range. Rather than marketing to the masses via traditional means, the pen-marker (or watchmaker) is carefully selecting opportunities that maintain the luxury feel of the brand. For example, the company gives away a Montblanc de la Culture award every year with prizes that include company products and a donation to the charity of the winner’s choice. Is it a coincidence that Prince Charles will be the award recipient this year as the company is focusing more effort on marketing in the UK?

The luxury goods market is feeling the same economic squeeze that is affecting smaller UK businesses. In addition to a smaller customer base, the price of precious metals needed for both pen and watch construction has increased over the past year. The result will be even higher prices, which is substantial for an already premium-priced product. However, solidifying the public’s perception of the brand and maintaining roots in the UK luxury market will likely help the company get through these hard times.

Although it began as a small business, Montblanc is now owned by luxury goods super-corporation Richemont, which also owns Cartier. The company is no stranger to branding and logo design. In fact, you may soon be seeing the Montblanc logo design in a UK shop window near you.